Album review “Emmanuel”, by Chris & Jennie Orange and Band

by Mike Burn on August 16, 2005

Two words immediately sprang to mind on the first listen to this great new live worship recording from Chris & Jennie Orange and Band – passionate and sincere. From the opening track, “We draw near” it is clear that the worship leaders and band have a desire and hunger to worship, matched by an enthusiastic congregation who gathered over two evenings, May 2005, in south London, to make the recording.

The arrangements are strong and well-rehearsed, with an excellent band, clearly used to working together and playing sensitively with each other. There is space too for the spontaneous and prophetic. Musically the band are very strong – keys, acoustic & electric guitar, bass, drums all excellent – and the addition of top quality strings and trumpet to some of the tracks is a real bonus. Recorded and mixed by the massively-talented Jon Kensington, the album bears close repeat listens very well.

The songs are accessible and powerful, ideal for congregational worship. One aspect of the song-writing I particularly appreciate is the creative melodies – they don’t always do the obvious thing, and have enough variety and interest to lift the songs out of the ordinary, without making them too difficult to remember or sing.

Chris’ leading is sensitive and unobtrusive. His voice is pleasant, mellow and sometimes plaintive, and it reflects well the integrity and personal desire that he has to put the worship of God before anything else. Jennie’s voice is exceptional, and is a wonderful complement to her husband’s. Her harmonies are always spot on and appropriate, providing a strong foundation for the congregation to sing against. Her lead vocal on “The wonder of the cross” is a real highlight of the album.

From a thematic point of view, I especially like the strong focus on the cross – it is central to our worship, and a number of the songs explore themes of the power, mercy and love that the cross represents. Another theme is the holiness of God, and the abiding sense that the album leaves is of the presence of a holy God, meeting with his people in worship.

The only gap that occurs to me is in up-tempo songs. Chris & Jennie’s writing of slow and mid-tempo worship ballads and anthems is on a par with the best of what’s being produced today in the UK, so I would also like to see them produce a fast rocker or two!

One of the most extraordinary aspects of this CD is that it is being given away freely. That is an unusual thing – even in these days of freely downloadable music on the Internet, a genuinely free CD is something else. People who appreciate the CD are invited to make donations to a charity working with orphans in Thailand, and although there is no compulsion to do so, I am sure that the charity will benefit hugely as a result.

A great album, a great concept, and it’s certain that there is surely much more yet to come! Well done to all involved.

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